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Milton's Satan Essay

1093 words - 4 pages

Milton's SatanMilton's Satan is a rebel who seduced his own daughter, impregnating her with a male child who, after violently tearing his way out of his mother's womb, promptly raped her. Satan is as yet ignorant of the existence of his incestuous issue when, in Book II of Paradise Lost, he sets forth on a mission of reconnaissance. On reaching Hell Gate, Satan is about to do battle with a fearsome monster when a "Snakie Sorceress" rushes between the two.O Father, what intends thy hand, she cri'd,Against thy only Son? What fury O Son,Possesses thee to bend that mortal DartAgainst thy Fathers head?II.727-730So beginning, the "Portress of Hell Gate" proceeds to describe her own birth. Satan having assembled his rebellious army, she sprang fully-grown from Satan's head. The angels at first feared her, and named her Sin; but Satan, finding her attractive, mated with her, engendering their son, whose name is Death.On the allegorical level, this passage is very simple to decipher: rebellion against God is a sin, the result of which is death. The passage also has other functions. Satan's sin parallels the sin later committed by Adam and Eve, which "Brought Death into the World" (I.3), and the lustful conception of the son of Satan contrasts with the immaculate conception of the Son of God (who, as Paradise Regain'd says more than once, was born to a "Virgin").Clearly, Milton's Satan functions as the antithesis of virtue, obedience and chastity. Satan's actions bear this out, for, confronted by his son and daughter, he proceeds to appeal to their worst instincts, offering them a life of luxury in which "all things shall be your prey." (I.844). Despite the horrific consequences of incest, which have left his daughter with such severe gynaecological problems that "Hell Hounds" (the issue of her incestuous relationship with her son) are now free to kennel in her womb, Satan shows no signs of remorse. Nor does he contradict his daughter when she looks forward to a renewal of their incestuous relationship, saying:-thou wilt bring me soonTo that new world of light and bliss, amongThe Gods who live at ease, where I shall ReignAt thy right hand voluptuous, as beseemsThy daughter and thy darling, without end.II.866-870Milton's Satan, then, is a rebel whose hierarchical transgression (his revolt against God) is paralleled by his sexual transgression (his incestuous relationship with his own daughter).The Satanic family, consisting of the unholy trinity Satan, Sin and Death, is severely dysfunctional; as Sin makes clear, Death would kill even her, except that he knows "His end with mine involv'd" (II.807).It has been said that the example of The Iliad "led Milton to think of the triangle of Adam, Eve and Satan in terms of Achilles, Patroklos and Hektor-Apollo" (Mueller 1984:188). In this view, Milton's Satan functions as an antagonist to the hero, as Hector (aided by the god Apollo) functions as an antagonist to the hero Achilles. By convention, the antagonist must...

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